Actors portray a scene during the Trail of Tears Drama, which took place at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s amphitheater from 1969 to 2005 in Park Hill, Okla. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO

Cherokee amphitheater once Trail of Tears Drama site

Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO An audience attending the Trail of Tears Drama in 1989 listens to pre-show entertainment. The drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
05/29/2013 07:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tonia Hogner Weavel is an alumna of the original Trail of Tears Drama that began playing in June 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center. She was the principal dancer for it in 1974 and 1976.

Weavel, who is now the CHC’s education director, said the drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff. It was written by Kermit Hunter and continued the dramatic story performed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians titled “Unto These Hills,” which is still shows today in Cherokee, N.C.

“It (“Unto These Hills”) was the first half of the removal, and ours was after we (Cherokee people) reached Indian Territory,” she said.

In an unusual twist, Weavel said the amphitheater where the drama was performed until 2005 was designed to fit the script. “Usually the theater is built and you just work with what you have but in this instance the theater was designed to fit the show.”

Charles “Chief” Boyd, an architecture graduate at the time, designed the amphitheater after traveling to New York City to research ideas with CHC co-founder Col. Martin Hagerstrand. The theater was designed using a “thrust stage or extended into the audience,” was steeply graded and fan-shaped.

“It was built to form an intimacy with the play. Even though it was a great outdoor amphitheater, it was designed to be as intimate to the stage as possible,” Weavel said.

The audience was never more than 75 feet from the stage, she added. And because of the steepness of the amphitheater, an audience of 1,800 could look down on the stage and actors.

“There was not a bad seat in the house, literally. For the most part you didn’t miss anything in any seat in the house,” Weavel said.

At the back of the main stage was a “mountaintop” with natural foliage. Behind the stage were dressing rooms. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage.

Another impressive feature was it was the first outdoor theater with an air-cooled stage. On the stage sides were air-conditioning vents that blew across the stage, which Weavel said was necessary on hot nights.

Also, the stage’s design and theater served another purpose. Weavel said in the old days of the theater, actors did not use amplification devices to project their voices and needed “theater voices” that could project to the back of the stage.

“So we didn’t use any kind of microphone system because the theater was built in such a way as to carry the sound up,” she said. “We did have music and we did have narration, so there was a sound system.”

Later, actors used wireless microphones when they became more available and easier to use.

“The theater was a grand place. It was at a time when the technology we have today was not in place, so our entertainment was self-imposed. Like the drive-in theater that has gone by the wayside, amphitheaters have done the same. It’s much easier to sit in your air-conditioned home and dial up a movie on Netflix...than it is to take the effort to get in your car and go sit out in maybe 95-degree heat and make the effort to go see a show,” Weavel said.

She said ultimately that is why the drama stopped. Dwindling attendance along with the cost of putting on the drama made it impossible to continue.

“One thing that has not died is the people’s memories and their experiences with the Trail of Tears Drama from 1969 until it closed in 2005. It set wonderful memories and it allowed people to learn more about Cherokee culture,” she said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Culture

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/03/2016 08:15 AM
CALERA, Okla. – When it comes to expressing herself through art, Cherokee Nation citizen Hailey Bishop has been doing so since she was 2. In the past 16 years she’s created art and won awards for it. The 18-year-old said she first started with coloring books. That’s when her parents noticed her talent. “I was like 2 and I’d be coloring in my high chair and my parents would notice a whole different change. They were like ‘this isn’t normal.’ So they started buying me little paint kits and 64 packs of crayons,” she said. She started taking art seriously at age 7, entering her art in the Bryan County Fair. She said from then she branched out by attending art shows and finding her passion of creating portraits. She said it’s “intriguing” to capture people’s faces. “That’s the thing that I’ve always been interested in since I was very little. That’s what I see. I like nature too, but just peoples faces, it’s very intriguing,” Bishop said. “Most people think that they’re the hardest to draw, but to me they’re the funnest and always the easiest.” Bishop said she enjoys drawing faces because it feels as if she’s connecting with the person. “There’s something about faces when I draw them. It’s almost like you know the person, especially if it’s a very old photo of Native Americans or just any person. It’s almost like you’re getting to know the person,” she said. Bishop also said she creates art in various media. “I paint. I’m trying to venture out into oil painting. Oil painting is kind of hard to do. You have to get things done really quick because it dries so slow,” she said. “I’m venturing out into clay. I’ve tried to mix mediums together with say leaves on canvases, really just out-of-the-box type things. I’ve painted on all types of surfaces. My go-to is in drawing. I really like charcoal. Charcoal is very messy, but it’s a challenging medium.” As for her inspirations, they vary by piece and by how she’s feeling. “I really love to feed off my inspirations of what God might give me, and usually it’s nature and people. Sometime it can just be something I’m just really happy about or I’m just really moved by. Most of my emotions drive my artwork,” she said. “Sometimes nothing really inspires me for some pieces. Sometimes I just want to do it…It’s like what I feel at the time and that’s really it.” Bishop said she won big at the 2015 Southeastern Art Show and Market in Sulphur even though she missed the deadline but was allowed to enter. She said by entering late she had limited time to create. “I had a week and a half to work on my work. That was the most challenging thing I have ever done.” She entered four pieces and they all placed. “I didn’t expect that I would win anything. I was just like ‘I’m just going to try.’ I usually shoot for the best, which would be best of show, which I didn’t get but I’m totally OK with that. I wasn’t expecting to get anything,” she said. “It was a really awesome experience. It’s just another year that you get these opportunities and more experience. Now that I’m going into the adult category I’m really stepping up my game, and it’s just a whole different world.” She won “Best of Two-Dimensional Art” for her drawing “2 Corinthians 4:7” in the youth category. “It just happened to be the one that I was least expecting to place that won the whole shebang,” she said. She also won three youth juror awards for her drawings “Song of Solomon 4:7,” “Study of Native American Woman by Manuel Librodo” and her painting “Find Peace.” She earned nearly $1,200 in award money and nearly another $1,200 from selling her artwork. Bishop said it’s important to have found her calling in art and believes young people should also find something that drives them. “Know what drives you and stick with those things because if you don’t have a purpose behind anything that you want to do how are you going to stick with it? How are you going to achieve more things?” she said. “Especially for young people, I think it’s important for them to have something to grasp on to, especially in our society today.” Bishop said she enjoys being an artist and is grateful for the opportunities art has provided her. “The artist that I am is just, it’s a crazy thing to really describe, but if I wasn’t an artist I think that I wouldn’t know how to express myself,” she said. “I love the fact that being an artist affects my whole person. It affects how I see everything. It affects what my morals are. It affects many aspects in my daily life.” Bishop attends Calera High School and is set to graduate this year. She was recently accepted into Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and plans to major in graphic design. “I’ve decided to venture out and major in graphic design because of the work that I’m doing at my local vo-tech down here. I’m in a graphic design class now, so I have a lot of opportunities to already get hands-on experience,” she said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/28/2016 08:15 AM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – A free Cherokee history and humanities course begins Feb. 3 and will run until March 6 at the John F. Henderson Public Library located at 116 North Williams St. The course, offered by the Cherokee Nation, is open to the public and will run from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. The course will allow participants interested in Cherokee history and culture to get an overview of the Nation’s changes from pre-contact with European settlers through Oklahoma statehood. Upon completion of the 21-hour course, participants will receive a certificate from the tribe. “The courses and the lecture series we’ve done in the past have all been well received by our students,” said instructor Roy Hamilton. “We try to limit the amount of lecturing that takes place by adding in some video and film, demonstrations, and bringing in guest speakers. It is important for the Cherokee people, and the public in general, to understand that the Cherokee Nation possesses a unique cultural identity.” For more information or to pre-register, call Hamilton at 918-453-5210 or email <a href="mailto: roy-hamilton@cherokee.org">roy-hamilton@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/27/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Echota Ground will host a benefit stomp dance at 7 p.m. until midnight on Feb. 6 at the Tahlequah Community Building. According to a Facebook post about the event, all ceremonial grounds are welcome and the event will include raffles, cakewalks and auctions. Concession will also be available. All proceeds will go to benefit improvements to the Echota Ground.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
01/22/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Matthew Anderson, a cultural specialist at the Spider Gallery, is offering daily lunchtime cultural presentation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at the gallery. “And it may not just be a cultural presentation there may actually be sketching, painting, sculpture, but there’s also a desire for finger weaving and twining,” Anderson said. “Those demonstrations I’ll be able to stop and do those at any time.” He said he’s had people, including Cherokee language teachers and enrichment program participants, who wanted to go over some activities that have been covered in cultural education classes. “And so we are available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to do that the rest of January and February at least,” he said. Other presentations might include cordage from plant material, which will also include going over what plants are available locally and their uses. “There are lunch specials through the Kawi Café and those daily specials are usually ready very quickly. If you just have a short lunch break, you can order one of the daily specials and also increase your knowledge of Cherokee art and culture by either just viewing the demonstration or actually participating in the instruction,” Anderson said. All the short lunchtime courses are available through the art center in a more in-depth style. For more information visit cherokeeartscenter.com and find the Spider Gallery link on that page or call 918-453-5728. Anderson said he could also be reached by email at <a href="mailto: matthew-anderson@cherokee.org">matthew-anderson@cherokee.org</a> or on Facebook.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/20/2016 12:00 PM
SEQUOYAH, Okla. (AP) – Though much of the life of the gifted linguist Sequoyah is unknown today, certain information has been gathered by historians through the years. Much of it was acquired through oral accounts of family members or other individuals who knew the blacksmith. No matter the source, all agree that his development of the written Cherokee language was a remarkable accomplishment. The Muskogee Phoenix reports that family accounts say Sequoyah was born in what is today Monroe County, Tennessee, but the exact date is left to speculation. His mother was a full-blood Cherokee named Wurteh Watts. She was of the Paint Clan and part of a prominent Cherokee family. His father is believed to be Nathaniel Gist. Sequoyah’s English name has been found in different documents as George Gist, Guess or Guest. Oral tradition tells us that Sequoyah first developed an interest in creating a written form of the Cherokee language in 1809. A group of friends had gathered in his blacksmith shop in Tennessee and were discussing the “talking leaves” of their neighbors. Some were of the opinion that communication by paper was “witchcraft,” but Sequoyah understood the concept of written language. He set out to create such a thing for the Cherokee language. He toiled at this project for 12 years. During these years, he served in the military, married Sally Waters of the Bird Clan and had a daughter named Ayoka. At first Sequoyah tried to develop a symbol for every Cherokee word, but it became quickly evident that this would be too massive an undertaking. He then identified the 85 syllables in the Cherokee language and created a symbol for each one. He borrowed symbols from every alphabet he could find, copying some from the Waters family Bible. Other symbols he simply created himself. His brother-in-law, Michael Waters, was an early student, but it was Ayoka who quickly learned to use the developing language system. Sequoyah was not without his detractors. Many who knew about his efforts believed he was dabbling in witchcraft. It is said that his wife burned his early writing attempts. But he carried on and when questioned by Cherokee government officials, he was able to demonstrate how his writing worked with the help of Ayoka. Even after moving with other Cherokees to Arkansas sometime before 1820, Sequoyah continued to perfect the syllabary. He returned east in 1821 and demonstrated his final effort. Thus, the year 1821 is considered to be the date for the completion of the Cherokee syllabary. This makes it 195 years old in 2016. Within a short time, most of the eastern and western Cherokees were able to read and write in their own language. Missionary Samuel Worcester sent the syllabary to a printer in Boston to have the symbols cast for type. Soon the Cherokees became the first American Indian tribe to print their own newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, which still is published today.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/19/2016 08:15 AM
TULSA, Okla. – George Kaiser Family Foundation is expanding its national artist fellowship program – the Tulsa Artist Fellowship – during its second year to include writers. With the inaugural class of visual artists beginning their fellowships in January, the TAF is now accepting applications for 2017. Awarding up to 30 new fellowships totaling more than $1 million in stipends, free housing and free workspace for the second cohort. “We are thrilled to expand our fellowship program to include writers,” Stanton Doyle, senior program officer at George Kaiser Family Foundation, said. “With our inaugural class of 12 visual artists now living and working in Tulsa, we look forward to expanding our program in 2017. Moving forward, we hope to provide more artists the opportunity to fine tune their craft through the TAF across a variety of disciplines.” The 12 visual artists in the inaugural class assembled from all over the United States. Living in new downtown Tulsa lofts, the artists were selected from an applicant pool of more than 300. Open to local and national artists in the disciplines of writing and visual arts, the TAF fellows will be awarded a stipend, free housing and studio workspace, if applicable. All fellowships are merit-based grants, not project grants, and fellows will be expected to integrate into the local community by participating in local programs, symposiums and more. To continue growing and shaping Tulsa’s vibrant arts community, non-resident artists will be required to live in provided housing in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District. For each discipline category (visual artists and writers) up to 15 fellowships will be awarded based on the quality of entries. <strong>Visual Artists</strong> • Fellows will be awarded a $20,000 unrestricted stipend with free downtown housing and workspace during Year One. Year Two is optional and will include a stipend of $7,500 plus free housing and workspace. • The program will reserve some of the fellowship positions for Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian artists. A screening committee and selection panel will follow the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 as a guideline in awarding Native American artists a fellowship. <strong>Writers</strong> • Fellows will be awarded a $20,000 unrestricted stipend with free downtown housing for Year One of the two-year fellowship. During Year Two, fellows will receive a $12,500 unrestricted stipend and continued free private housing. • In its inaugural year, writers will focus on creative nonfiction, fiction, graphic novel, young-adult fiction, poetry and play/screen writing. A coordinating committee consisting of local leaders in the Tulsa arts community will screen all fellowship applications for eligibility and coordinate community programs for the fellows during their time in Tulsa. Applications for the TAF 2017 are due on March 4, and fellows will be announced on June 1. The fellowship will begin on Jan. 9, 2017. To learn more about the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and apply, visit <a href="http://www.TulsaArtistFellowship.org" target="_blank">www.TulsaArtistFellowship.org</a>.